* Or how preparing for 140 miles of pain might just help you become an entrepreneur.
Right now I have two full time vocations. I’m building a business and I am training for Ironman Wisconsin. And it has become increasingly clear that these pursuits are completely related, and success requires the same stuff. Here are ten things that help with both:
- Vision – The power of thought should never be underestimated. Visualizing what success looks like for you– and thinking about it -- is critical in business and in Ironman training. Success is more likely if you are working and training towards something. I think about what my business looks like “in heaven.” How my race goes in heaven. I daydream about these visions constantly.
- Faith – Believing I can do something that I have no proof I can do takes a leap of faith. Faith is the only antidote to fear. Faith in myself yes, but also faith that something out there is rooting for me, helping all the pieces come together in the way they are meant to. If you I believe in miracles, in magic, in a higher power of some sort (any sort!), the suffering becomes a LOT easier. I have found this to be true in training, in business and in life.
- Action – Knowing where you want to go is half the battle, but unless you map out the course and drive, your vision is going to stay in dream state. A clear plan that you can break into manageable action steps helps. I tend to struggle here, opting far too often for the meandering scenic route. For Ironman, I use Training Peaks- my coach inputs the daily action steps I need to take in order to follow the training plan. Each day I track my progress and note my victories. In business I have not been nearly as disciplined. It is time for me to pull the business plan back out and start monitoring and celebrating my milestones!
- Help – We all need help. Sometimes you just need to pull over and ask for directions. Get a community of support. A coach. An advisory board. On the days when your faith is hard to find and the motivation to take the action is lacking, it helps to tap in to people who have been there before and who can relate. For me, role models that demonstrate what “the other side” of the challenge looks like and help me navigate both the plan and the doubts in my head have been a saving grace. For Ironman, I train with Chicago Endurance Sports, book a weekly one-on-one swim lesson, regular physical therapy, and I'm starting to work with a bike coach on a computrainer. For business, Ideaction has a Corps of believers and advisors, I am building a formal Advisory Board, and I have a small group of mentors that I rely on to help troubleshoot and encourage me.
- Purpose – It’s really hard for me to do things without purpose. Finishing a race for the sake of it just does not cut it. Growing a business just to have a job does not do it for me. I’m training for Ironman because I want to feel what it is like to optimize my health, my fitness – my heart. I want to meet people who say YES! to challenges and risks and do the hard work (which is also, conveniently, my purpose with business). It helps to have a purpose that is outside of me too—I’m dedicating my training to Thresholds, and raising money to support them. With Ideaction Corps – I want to help my YES! people collaborate to make the world a better place.
- Gear – My dad used to say, “It takes money to make money.” As scrappy as I can be, I’ve come to see the truth in that. Building Ideaction Corps takes a computer, a printer, some software, an accountant, a bookkeeper, a little swag, and a website to start- not a lot, but the basics. Similarly, Ironman requires a bike, a wetsuit, registration and training fees, good running shoes, a watch, and all sorts of “gear” I never knew I needed. My living room is both my office and my sports locker. And I love it. Invest in some basic, quality gear. Yes, it is an up front cost, but the ROI is excellent.
- Belly Fire – In business or in Ironman, you gotta really want it. And I mean burn for it. It’s what keeps you going. It’s what fuels the determination and persistence.
You put me in a race where there's a lot on the line, especially when people tell me 'you can't win', or 'you're too small', you tell me those things and I'll find a way to prove you wrong. Mirinda Carfrae
- Heart Rate Monitor – Not to be confused with pace. Pace is an external measure of how fast you are moving over the ground. Heart rate measures your internal level of effort. In Ironman (and business building), unlike shorter races, this generally means sticking in Zone 2, the endurance zone-- 20- 30 beats below your race pace. It’s the fuel conservation zone that allows for sustained effort over a long period of time. Sure, you take it up a notch at the end, or before a big business milestone for example, but if you try to run at race pace for very long you are going to hit the wall. In business they call it burn out. In races they call it bonking. If you are in it for the long haul, learn to maintain a sustainable level of effort.
Success in the sport is, above all else, about enduring suffering." Chris McCormack, Two-time Iron Man World Champion
- Rest and Recovery-- My Ironman training adds up to about 14 hours this week, and it will steadily climb. But regardless of the number of hours in a week each week always includes a day off. Your body and your mind both need a break. I am a big believer in meditation. In walks. And most of all, in naps! YaY naps! We all need a break to rest and recover. Book a few less meetings. Extend a few deadlines. What is the hurry? Give yourself some space to do nothing and you’ll actually add more hours to your day.
- Presence-- In business building and Ironman, it helps to just be where you are. Look around. Be grateful. Accept yourself. Enjoy the moment. Last Saturday my training group took a trip up to Madison to bike the hills. I am slower on the bike than I want to be – it is hard for me to keep up with the others. Here is what I found: when going up a hill, if I just focus on my cadence and on my progress and notice the view, it does not hurt as much. The second I start to worry about catching up someone else I’m in pain. Same with business. Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t worry if you have not taken all of the “10 steps to launching a start-up” steps. Just focus on being the best you can be each day.
If you are training for Ironman or you’ve done one before, you might want to consider starting your own business. In fact, I bet if someone collected the data, we’d find that the percentage of Ironman finishers who started/run their own business is pretty high. And if you are an entrepreneur who thinks they don’t have stuff of Ironman -- hell, I’d put my money down you could nail that 140 miles and smile across the finish line because in your heart, you know what it takes. Either way, in Ironman or launching a start up, here is the thing:
You can keep going and your legs might hurt for a week or you can quit and your mind will hurt for a lifetime. Mark Allen, Six Time Iron Man World Champion
Kelly O'Brien is the President and Founder of Ideaction Corps, a full service social change agency whose clients include companies and causes doing good. She's passionate about helping people and organizations find the path to work with purpose, big ideas and infecting grace. She can be reached at @kellymobrien or @ideactioncorps on Twitter, or via the Ideaction Corps website.